Background image of A Pendleton blanket is draped around the shoulders of the 2014 ILA awardee

Indigenous Leadership Award

Since 2001, we have recognized 58 tribal leaders with Ecotrust’s Indigenous Leadership Award (ILA) for their dedication to their culture and their work to improve economic and environmental conditions of their homelands and people.

The 2014 ILA honorees, from British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and California, have worked to break new ground in relations between tribes and their federal, state, and provincial partners, as well as their counterparts in industry. They have worked tirelessly to protect ocean and salmon health, restore traditional foods through innovative resource management, and revive long-dormant cultural practices.

We honored Annita McPhee (Tahltan), Arthur Williams Sterritt (Gitga’at), Eric J. Quaempts (Yakama), Roy Sampsel (Choctaw/Wyandotte), and the awardee, Roberta Reyes Cordero (Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation), on November 14 at a private ceremony at the Portland Art Museum, presenting them with a cash award to further their mission in strengthening their communities.

Portrait of 2014 ILA awardee

Roberta Reyes Cordero of the Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation, is a cultural ambassador and conflict resolution professional. For nearly twenty years she has been actively pursuing ways to give tribal people a voice in coastal marine planning in California. Aided by her efforts, the Chumash Nation has reestablished a connection to its canoeing and seafaring roots, which has led to a resurgence of the Chumash language, the preparation of Native foods, creation of art, and a reestablishment of family connections among tribal members. Read more about Roberta’s work.

Indigenous leader Annita McPhee portrait


Annita McPhee is an accomplished professional and leader who has demonstrated a strong commitment to advancing the economic prosperity of her Tahltan Nation people while protecting their lands and way of life in northwestern British Columbia. Annita has negotiated agreements with industry and the B.C. Government on revenue sharing and shared decision making, and helped to permanently protect the Sacred Headwaters region of British Columbia from resource development. Read more about Annita’s work.

Eric Quaempts (Yakama) portrait

Eric J. Quaempts is director of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation department of natural resources and a Yakama tribal member who has shown visionary leadership integrating traditional ecological and cultural knowledge with scientific practice. Building on almost 30 years of experience as a wildlife biologist, he has restructured his department around First Foods — water, salmon (fish), deer (large land mammals), cous (roots), and berries — which are deeply ingrained in tribal traditions and rituals. This has resonated with tribal community members, their partners, United States Tribes, federal and state agencies, and other indigenous communities, from Washington to Australia and Chile. Read more about Eric’s work.

Portrait of ILA honoree Roy Sampsel

Roy Sampsel (Choctaw/Wyandotte) has made contributions to indigenous governance and environmental stewardship at the highest levels of the United States federal government. In rising to Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior, he worked on tribal rights protection and natural resource management and implementation of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Act. He also led the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. Roy recently stepped down as Director of the Institute for Tribal Government at Portland State University and today is president of a Portland natural resources consulting firm. Read more about Roy’s work.

portrait of 2014 ILA Honoree Art Sterritt


Arthur Williams Sterritt (Gitga’at) has fought tirelessly for protection and sustainable prosperity for the Great Bear Rainforest coastal region of British Columbia. His many leadership roles have included Chief Negotiator for the Gitga’at First Nation, Treaty Commissioner, Executive Director of the Gitga’at Development Corporation, and co-founder and Executive Director of the Coastal First Nations: Great Bear Initiative. Art is also an accomplished artist specializing in painting screens and woodcarving. Read more about Art’s work.

“This is a recognition of a new generation of leaders — the one our grandparents looked toward — with the infrastructure and the expertise to be able to do the great work we’re doing now.”

–Brian Cladoosby, President of the National Congress of American Indians

The late Billy Frank, Jr. responds to Jon Waterhouse's call for human connection from the podium at the 2012 Indigenous Leadership Award Ceremony

About the Indigenous Leadership Award

Through the generous support of a private endowment, Ecotrust has awarded a monetary prize to 58 indigenous honorees over the past fourteen years. Native and non-Native nominators gathered stories, tribal endorsements, supporting materials, and recommendation letters with great respect and gratitude for the nominee’s service and dedication.

A reading panel comprised of three Ecotrust staff members and several tribal leaders from Alaska to California convened annually to peer review the nominations and narrow the field to five honorees. A final jury panel of senior tribal leaders and Ecotrust’s Board Chair, Spencer Beebe, selected the finalist from among the honorees.

Past honorees, a group we call the Indigenous Leaders Council, recently gathered and decided to take a pause from the award in 2015. Rather than continuing to add individuals to the circle of honorees at this time, the council, with our support, will join together and work in common cause on a project that has bioregional impact. While we explore this new area of work with the council, we will temporarily suspend the Indigenous Leadership Award. Thank you for your support over the last fourteen years of honoring and elevating the work of our regional indigenous leaders.